Caribbean American Heritage Month celebration honors two judges and court clerk
The Kings County Court system held its first in-person Caribbean American Heritage Month celebration since the COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, June 30, where it honored two judges, Hon. Sylvia Hinds-Radix and Hon. Michelle Weston, as well as a clerk, James Blain.
While the event was technically in person, it was also broadcast online and more than a few people in attendance were safely wearing their masks for protection.
“It was the great work of the Committee that resulted in an entertaining and educational celebration,” said Hon. Wavny Toussaint, who served as the committee chair who helped organize the event.
Justice Hinds-Radix was one of three honored. The current NYC Corporation Counsel was born in Barbados and had previously sat as Administrative Judge of the Kings County Supreme Court, Civil Term, and was later a justice of the Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department.
Justice Weston’s parents migrated from Trinidad and Tobago. She was appointed to the Criminal Court by Mayor Ed Koch in 1989, has served on the Appellate Term for the Second, Eleventh and Thirteenth Judicial Districts since she was appointed in April 1993 as the court’s first Black female justice.
James Blain works in the Kings County Clerk’s Office as the deputy county clerk. He has a bachelor’s in economics and finance and began working in the court system in White Plains in 1990. Blain came to the Kings County Clerk’s Office in 1998 when he accepted a position as administrator. In 2017, he had the distinction of being the first Haitian-born deputy county clerk.
The court system also welcomed as guest speakers Borough President Antonio Reynoso, whose parents migrated from the Dominican Republic, and Dr. Nelson A. King, who is from St. Vincent and the Grenadines and is known for his reporting for Caribbean Life newspaper, his work at Medgar Evers College, and as an adjunct professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology.
Regular deaths are “status quo” at Rikers Island
New York City is working on closing its infamous jail, Rikers Island, in upcoming years and the move cannot come soon enough as two more people died there this month and 11 incarcerated people have now died in city custody this year.
Michael Lopez was the eleventh person to die in city custody this year. He was only 34 years old. According to the Legal Aid Society, Lopez was locked in a mental observation unit and details of his death were not released.
“Regular deaths have become the status quo in (the Department of Corrections),” said the Legal Aid Society, who represented Lopez, in a statement. “The inability of the Adams administration to take immediate and bold action further demonstrates that they cannot be trusted to run the jails one day longer and the appointment of a receiver remains necessary. While these issues are addressed in the court system, Mayor Adams and Commissioner Molina must declare their own jail system patently unsafe and join our call for the wholesale decarceration of these facilities.
“Our hearts ache for Mr. Lopez’s family, friends and community, and the countless other New Yorkers who have been touched by these tragic and completely avoidable deaths.”
Lopez was accused of burglarizing and felony trespassing for allegedly breaking into a Duane Reade and Target four times.
16 people died in New York City jails in 2021 and that number will likely be topped in 2022.
Robert Abruzzese is the former Legal Editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and Director of Member Services at the Brooklyn Bar Association. In addition to writing this column, he currently attends Touro Law Center and is a Legal Administrative Assistant at the Cavallo Firm, PLLC. You can reach him via email at [email protected].
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